News/Events

Consumer Alerts

Back to School Credit Cards

CONSUMER ALERT: Back to School Credit Cards

Wed, Jul 26, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Finding out you cannot get a loan for your first house or car because of bad credit from a college credit card can be shocking. Signing up for a credit card may seem like the perfect solution for those back-to-school expenses, but it is important to understand that credit cards are not free and come with a cost. New credit card users may find themselves struggling with long-term issues from easily avoidable mistakes.

“Credit cards are a convenient way to make purchases, but new users may not completely understand exactly what they are signing up for,” says Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “For example, late payments or exceeding the card’s limit could potentially hurt your credit score. This will raise interest rates and make it difficult to take out loans later in life.”

For those students who are considering applying for a credit card, Rutledge offered this advice when using a card:

  • Submit payments on time. Making regular payments is the best way to improve a credit score and qualify for less expensive credit.
  • Pay the balance owed if at all possible. Although it may seem easier to pay the minimum, doing so costs more in the long run, and it will take much longer to pay off the debt.
  • Do not “max out” a credit card. Charging the full credit limit is risky, and it will affect a consumer’s credit score.
  • Do not respond to every tempting credit card offer. Using too much credit could lead to having uncontrollable debt.
  • Read the fine print as some credit cards include expensive annual fees and higher interest rates in exchange for incentives like airline miles and bonus points. Some credit cards offer other services such as lower annual percentage rates, insurance and other items at no cost.

To combat the high-pressure solicitations and students burdened by credit card debt, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation in 1999 that restricts the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses.

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which restricts on-campus credit card marketing nationwide. Under this law, the marketing of credit cards within 1,000 feet of a college campus or related event is prohibited. Consumers under age 21 must have a written application that includes the signature of a parent, legal guardian or spouse that has means to repay debts incurred by the account. Credit card marketers are also forbidden from using gifts such as T-shirts and magazine subscriptions to entice a young consumer into applying for a card.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Doorbell Dealings

CONSUMER ALERT: Doorbell Dealings

Wed, Jul 19, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Door-to-door salespeople are trying to take advantage of Arkansans at home. Summer is a popular time for home solicitors to hit the streets, selling home improvement projects, home security systems, newspapers, magazines and more. They frequently use high pressure sales tactics to make the deal and sometimes consumers walk away regretting the purchase.

“Some door-to-door salespeople know that many of us are busy while at home and try to capitalize on a homeowner’s distraction,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But Arkansans need to know that if they agree to make a purchase from someone at their doorstep, or even at any other location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business, they have three days to cancel the sale with no penalty.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for those who may be faced with a salesperson at their door:

  • Because these solicitations can be stressful, prepare a “just say no” script ahead of time and practice it. For example, you could respond to the salesperson by saying, “Thank you for coming by, but we are not in need of your product or service. Have a good day.” Then close your door.
  • Some cities require that a door-to-door salesperson obtain a license or certification prior to engaging in sales. Check with local authorities for more information.
  • Take a few days to consider the sales offer. It may be advantageous to shop around or do research to make sure the deal is legitimate.
  • Do not allow a salesperson to install any product the same day. However, if equipment is installed in the home prior to the end of the three-day cancelation window, a consumer still has the right to cancel the sale or contract.
  • Be wary of “free” installation or equipment deals. Even if something is initially offered free of charge in order to make a sale more attractive, a consumer could eventually pay for the product with high-cost, long-term contracts.
  • Do not give into high-pressure sales pitches, such as offers being “for today only,” that a home has been “specially selected” for a deal or that the seller is “trying to get rid of extra inventory.”
  • Never let a salesperson into your home unless they have provided proper identification and you have determined exactly what he or she wants.

The Arkansas Home Solicitation Act applies to purchases of $25 or more and requires a salesperson to verbally inform consumers of their cancellation rights at the time of the sale. The seller must also leave the customer with two copies of the cancellation form and a copy of the contract or receipt. One exception to the Act is if a consumer requests a home visit for immediate repair of personal property, such as heating and air systems or appliances.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Snapchat Scare

CONSUMER ALERT: Snapchat Scare

Wed, Jul 12, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – With Snapchat releasing new tracking features for their app, users need to be aware of new risks. Snapchat is a mobile messaging app that allows users to send and receive pictures that are displayed on screen for, at most, 10 seconds. The new update dubbed Snap Map now allows Snapchat “friends” to track others’ locations when the app is open.

Although the update was only introduced recently, GPS tracking apps are already concerning law enforcement due to potential safety problems. Officials worry that location-based services on apps make children and teens more vulnerable to predators. For Snapchat, when the Snap Map feature is enabled, any “friends” can track your location. Snapchat has implemented a Ghost Mode for users to hide from the map feature which can be turned on by pinching the screen when the camera is open in the app, tap the settings icon in the top right corner and swipe to enable the feature.

“Adults need to be aware that these location tracking apps could potentially put young people in danger,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Allowing followers to track your location at all times can be dangerous, especially if you do not personally know all of your ‘friends' on social media. Adults must be as concerned about a potential online stalker as they would be about an in-person stalker."

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to protect children from online predators:

  • Talk to children about sexual victimization and the potential of online danger.
  • Utilize parental controls and blocking software on mobile devices.
  • Make sure children keep passwords, pictures and personal information to themselves.
  • Remind children never to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they first met online.
  • Teach children not to post anything online that they would not want others to see.
  • Help them remember people they meet online are not always who they say they are.
  • Tell them not to respond to messages that are inappropriate or make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage children to tell an adult if they ever encounter a problem online.
  • Consider disabling all location-based services on mobile devices, which is typically accessible in the privacy settings.

With apps and technology always changing and updating, it is important for adults to keep up and know the programs on their child’s phone.

The Attorney General’s office is hosting an internet safety webcast on Wednesday, Aug. 2, as well as provides a technology tip card for consumers, information for parents to spot cyberbullying and a Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety. Community educators are also available to present an internet safety program to parents and educators, and regional cyber safety trainings are available this summer for educators across the state. The FBI also provides internet safety tips for parents to discuss with children.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Scammer Targeting Arkansas Medicaid Recipients

CONSUMER ALERT: Scammer Targeting Arkansas Medicaid Recipients

Wed, Jul 5, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – A state agency has received reports of someone posing as an employee of the agency, making unsolicited calls and asking for the credit card information of Arkansans. This is a scam and Arkansans must beware.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) has received at least four reports of a scammer claiming to work for DHS calling Medicaid Savings Program clients. The caller reportedly asks questions about the client’s insurance then asks for their credit card number to continue their service or offer other special discounts through the Medicaid Savings Program, many times requesting a $500 processing fee.

“Scammers who pose as a representative of a state agency know consumers are more likely to listen,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans need to know to keep personal or credit card information private, especially if a person or agency is requesting it during an unsolicited phone call.”

Attorney General Rutledge offered the following tips for anyone who receives this call or one similar:

  • Be cautious if someone asks that a fee be paid through a pre-paid credit card or by wiring money. If payments are made, the money may never be seen again. Legitimate organizations will accept standard and traceable forms of payments.
  • People who accept these offers become targets of other scammers when their information is shared or sold to others.
  • Never provide any financial account information to an unknown person or entity.
  • If the call appears to be from a government agency, consider hanging up and calling the agency back on a phone number found on their website.

DHS encourages Arkansans who receive this call to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office, and if there are any questions, DHS can be contacted at 501-682-1001. Arkansans should be mindful that con artists do not follow the law, so they disregard the do-not-call registry. And technological advances allow for Caller ID spoofing, so that scammers can disguise the source of the calls.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at 800-482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Safety First for Fireworks

CONSUMER ALERT: Safety First for Fireworks

Wed, Jun 28, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Fireworks can cause serious injury or even death if not used properly. Arkansans need to keep this in mind as preparations are underway for Independence Day, which is just a few short days away.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports four fatalities and an estimated 7,600 injuries related to fireworks in the U.S. in 2016.

“Fireworks are fun to watch and are a traditional part of many July Fourth festivities,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “As some across the State put on their own fireworks displays rather than attending one of the larger displays taking place, I urge extreme caution. The improper use or malfunctioning fireworks can lead to fires, serious injury or even death.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are planning their own holiday fireworks show:

  • Only buy fireworks from a licensed store, tent or stand.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area.
  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
  • Supervise children at all times and make sure adults light every firework, including sparklers, which can reach 2,000 degrees.
  • Make sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never relight a malfunctioning firework. Soak the duds in water and throw them away.
  • Do not shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
  • Keep a water hose or bucket of water nearby in case of a fire.

Arkansas’s “Fireworks Act” restricts the types of fireworks that can be sold in the State and the amount of explosive material that each firework may contain.

Firework vendors are required to have a State license. They may not sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 12 or to anyone who appears to be intoxicated. Municipal ordinances may also restrict or regulate fireworks sales and use.

State law only allows exploding fireworks to be sold each year from June 20 to July 10 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 5. Non-exploding items, such as sparklers and snakes, may be sold throughout the year.

Also consider securing pets during local fireworks displays as many get scared of the loud noises and may try to find a way to get away and seek shelter.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Red Flags in Timeshare Resale

CONSUMER ALERT: Red Flags in Timeshare Resale

Wed, Jun 21, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Some Arkansans have found themselves trapped in a bad timeshare deal, unable to get rid of the property and have contacted the Attorney General’s office seeking help. The idea of a guaranteed vacation location, upscale lodging accommodations and the ability to exchange shares for other properties could seem like the perfect vacation solution. But timeshare “owners” may be surprised by expensive annual maintenance fees, difficulty exchanging weeks or locations and finding the property value they assumed would remain steady or even increase has remained the same or decreased.

A timeshare is a type of property in which an owner buys the right to use it for a previously-designated period of time. Timeshares are usually condominium units in a popular destination and often have multiple “owners.”

“Timeshare ‘owners’ who have found themselves wanting to sell their stake in the property often run into scam artists who promise to sell their portion quickly,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But Arkansans must do research before working with any company offering to help resell the timeshare. Consumers must make sure they are dealing with a reputable seller.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans looking to resell their timeshare:

  • Beware of timeshare resellers who contact you unsolicited with a promise to resell your timeshare.
  • If they say they have willing buyers, it is probably a lie.
  • Never pay a substantial advance fee for resale assistance. A reputable seller will charge a commission paid only upon sale, like a normal real estate transaction. An advance fee may be called a marketing fee, a listing fee, an internet advertising fee or other related fee.
  • Get an independent appraisal from a licensed appraiser before agreeing on any resale assistance contract.
  • Deal only with licensed agents.

The timeshare industry has become a popular platform for a number of operations to take advantage of “owners” desperate to sell. They claim to offer assistance in selling the timeshare and take away the burden of the continuing costs of ownership. These operations collect hundreds or thousands of dollars in so-called deed transfer or marketing fees but never complete the sale.

The timeshare industry was rapidly expanding in the 1970s and 1980s, which resulted in an overdeveloped market and flood of properties that now have depressed values. These circumstances make the resale of timeshares difficult. The industry fluctuates and is unpredictable.

Consumers who have concerns about their timeshares should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Contact Us
Sign Up For Consumer Alerts